By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
The tourism industry has something to cheer for in this year’s budget. Our Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his budget speech, made a mention on the subject of tourism, a very significant step indeed.
Presenting the budget- 2018, Jaitley said “India is blessed with abundance of tourist attractions, so it is proposed to develop ten prominent tourist sites in iconic tourism destinations by following a holistic approach, involving infrastructure and skill development, developing of technology, attracting private investment, branding and marketing. Jaitley also added “in addition, tourist amenities at 100 Adarsh monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India [asi] will be upgraded to enhance the visitor experience.”
It must be noted that in 2015, the asi had identified 25 monuments for the “Adarsh Smarak Scheme” for upgradation of tourist-related amenities, some of these monuments include the Qutub Minar, Hampi in Karnataka, Konarak temple in Orissa. A right step in the right direction. It is better to concentrate on select destinations which attract international, domestic tourists and develop them instead of trying to develop all destinations at one go. Spreading the butter thin does not help.
Excellent news for the industry. Now the most important thing is where do we, the city of Mysuru, fit in these schemes? In a later meeting with the CEOs, Jaitley mentioned that the modalities of identifying the scheme etc., has been left to the Tourism Ministry. It is time for lobbying. The Department of Tourism, Karnataka, has to proactively lobby with the Central Ministry to ensure that the Hampi-Hassan-Mysuru circuit is included in that list. With elections due in May, the Government of India may be favourably inclined to any request from Karnataka.
The Department of Tourism is flush with funds, they only require good Detailed Project Reports [dpr]. Having worked in the Ministry I have seen some pathetic dprs given by some State governments. The biggest advantage of Central funding is that fifty percent of the approved amount is sent in advance to the State Ministry.
It is suggested that the following works can be taken up with Central funding for Mysuru:
- Create a bank of high resolution Transparencies [tps]. This is essential for creating new brochures, bill boards etc. Every year the Tourism Department participates in international and national fairs with the same old photographs of Mysuru. It is important to depict the new vibrant Mysuru with its new attractions like our bonsai garden etc. The fact that our city has been given the tag of “Cleanest City” can be highlighted. As at present this city does not even have a clear tourist road map essential for all important tourist destinations, this map should be freely available all over the city including prominent shops and malls. Lesser known destinations around Mysuru like Ranganathittu, Melukote etc., can be highlighted.
- Some obsolete destinations like Brindavan Gardens require complete overhaul. The State does not have money for such huge projects. This requires Central funding and this can easily be done if only the State prepares a draft detailed project report with financial estimates.
- At present there is a plethora of signages, some of international standard and some new creations of the local administration. Ours is a heritage city and hence there should be a uniformity in this and this can be taken up as a single work.
- Rest rooms of international standards in all destinations for the tourists on payment basis. A small snack counter also can be set up on the premises so that the visitors both domestic or international can rest and have something to eat. Most of the rest rooms abroad also stack up tourist information of the State.
- The local administration should convince the royals to lease out the Rajendra Vilas Palace and the Gun House building to a reputed hotel chain to ensure that it does not crumble. These are important heritage structures and deserve to be preserved for posterity.
- The Jagan Mohan Palace needs a complete overhaul. This museum requires digitalisation, which is expensive. This can also be taken up with Central funding with the consent of the royal family to ensure that the priceless paintings are preserved for the future generations. The list is endless but a beginning can be made.
Lobbying is legal and the tourism-active bjp states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh or Goa must be queueing up to take advantage of this scheme. So why wait, Mysuru?